Teaching Kids Photography

Last week my 6 year-old nephew stopped by with his grandmother. They had just been to the bookstore and he was eager to show off his chosen book, as shown in the photo here.

He likes photography, and just being creative in general. He often plays with the Polaroid I gave him last year. During his visit, I thought, why not show him how to do more, particularly in a studio setting? I asked if he was up for it and being the inquisitive kid that he is, he did not hesitate to say yes.

Once in the studio, he made all of the creative decisions, albeit with a guiding hand. He chose the subject and where to place it, to use a stand or not, etc. I asked him, “Do you want window light and if so, how much?” He decided on his own. “Do you want to use strobe light?” The answer was yes. “More power or less?”, “How about a reflector?” and he would respond with answers on where to place the reflector and so on. It was all intuitive, but the decisions were his.

Then we went on to the camera and lens selection. I asked him, “Do you want a sharp focused photo or something soft-focused and a little less predictable?” He opted for the soft-focus, so I attached a Lensbaby Sweet 35 to my Sony a7 and set the ISO at 100.

I then asked him, “Do you want to get close and maybe a bit off-angle to the book, or do you want a straight and stable shot?” He chose to get close and off-angle. I said, “That’s a hand-held shot, with you probably sitting on the floor. Is that what you want to do?” The answer was a decisive yes. (Again, he is 6 and currently in a very direct communication phase.)

Next came creative decisions with the camera. “Do you want depth or shallow depth-of-field?” I’m not sure that he knows what that means exactly, but he chose shallow depth. I set the aperture for f/4 and told him that wide aperture meant shallow depth-of-field. Again, I’m not sure if he knew exactly what that meant, but he knows the word shallow, so I think he understood the basic concept.

Then he chose his color balance, which he decided by looking at the different options visible on the live view. As you can see, he chose fluorescent.

So, with the camera set up for 1/100 and he sitting where he wanted to be, I showed him how to focus manually with the Lensbaby. Then I told him to go ahead and shoot away. Several times he asked me to adjust the reflector, which was great, because I wanted him to understand the role light plays in photography. He even asked me to add more power to the Einstein once.

Once he was satisfied with a shot, I showed him how to develop in Lightroom without being too technical. I was at the computer, but I kept it simple and let him make intuitive decisions in the moment. Technical proficiency wasn’t the point. I thought just letting him have fun and see the possibilities was the best way to introduce him to photo development. I even showed him metadata and told him that it’s his

So there you have it. I was basically an assistant to a 6 year-old kid. The whole thing took about 30 minutes. I trusted him with the camera (wear the strap, please) and he understood that it wasn’t a toy and it should be handled carefully. I let him know what the options were and then I let him make the choice of subject, lighting, etc. I did not contradict or second guess his decisions.

I’m sure there are other ways of teaching photography to youngsters, and if he were older, things might have been more technical. If anything, my goal was to show him there is technology and light available, natural or artificial, that can bring his vision to life.

As for the book? I don’t know. He is 6, after all, and I’m just happy that he enjoys reading.






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